A NASA-led team of scientists has created detailed 3-D maps of the atmospheres surrounding comets, identifying several gases and mapping their spread at the highest resolution ever achieved.
“We achieved truly first-of-a-kind mapping of important molecules that help us understand the nature of comets,” said Martin Cordiner, a researcher working in the Goddard Center for Astrobiology at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Cordiner led the international team of researchers.
Almost unheard of for comet studies, the 3-D perspective provides deeper insight into which materials are shed from the nucleus of the comet and which are produced within the atmosphere, or coma. This helped the team nail down the sources of two key organic, or carbon-containing, molecules.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is scheduled to launch the asteroid explorer “Hayabusa2”*1 on the H-IIA Launch Vehicle in 2014. The Hayabusa2 will arrive at an asteroid in 2018 to investigate it for one and half years, before returning to Earth in 2020.
JAXA will record and load your names, messages and illustrations on onboard devices (the target marker*2 and re-entry capsule*3) of the Hayabusa2. Through this campaign and Hayabusa2’s six-year space mission, we would like people to deepen their understanding of Japan’s space probe activities.
Three new crew members are on their way to the International Space Station. NASA Flight Engineer Sunita Williams, Russian Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 10:40 p.m. EDT Saturday, July 14 (8:40 a.m. Baikonur time July 15).
Williams, Malenchenko and Hoshide are scheduled to dock their Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft to the Rassvet module of the station at 12:52 a.m. EDT Tuesday, July 17. They will join Expedition 32 Commander Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba of NASA and Sergei Revin of Russia, who have been aboard the orbiting laboratory since May 17.
The six crew members will work together for about two months. Acaba, Padalka and Revin are scheduled to return to Earth Sept. 17. Before they depart, Padalka will hand over command of the station and Expedition 33 to Williams. She, Malenchenko and Hoshide will return home in mid-November.
Over the next several weeks, NASA Television will provide coverage of the departure of three crew members from the International Space Station and prelaunch, launch and arrival activities of three new residents.
Coverage will begin Wednesday, June 20, with the first of a series of Video Files of Expedition 32/33 Flight Engineers Suni Williams of NASA, Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) participating in training and ceremonial activities at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.
On June 29, NASA TV will broadcast a change of command ceremony aboard the orbiting laboratory in which Expedition 31 Commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos will hand over the reins of command to Gennady Padalka. Padalka, a cosmonaut for Roscosmos, will become the International Space Station’s first three-time commander. When the Soyuz TMA-03M undocks on June 30, Expedition 31 will transition to Expedition 32 under Padalka’s command.
Kononenko and Flight Engineers Don Pettit of NASA and Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency will depart the station in their Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft June 30 for a July 1 landing in Kazakhstan to complete their six-and-a-half-month mission. Two weeks later, July 14 (July 15 in Kazakhstan), Williams, Hoshide and Malenchenko will launch to the station in the Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The three will arrive at the station July 16 to join Padalka and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba of NASA and Sergei Revin of Roscosmos, who have been aboard the station since mid-May.
On May 20-21, 2012 an annular eclipse of the Sun will be visible from within a narrow corridor along Earth’s northern Hemisphere — beginning in eastern Asia, crossing the North Pacific Ocean, and ending in the western United States. A partial eclipse will be visible from a much larger region covering East Asia, North Pacific, North America and Greenland.
The joint JAXA/NASA Hinode mission will observe the eclipse and provide images and movies that will be available on the NASA website at http://www.nasa.gov/sunearth. Due to Hinode’s orbit around the Earth, Hinode will actually observe 4 separate partial eclipses.” Scientists often use an eclipse to help calibrate the instruments on the telescope by focusing in on the edge of the moon as it crosses the sun and measuring how sharp it appears in the images. An added bonus: Hinode’s X-ray Telescope will be able to provide images of the peaks and valleys of the lunar surface.
A scientific team using the Japanese AKARI infrared space observatory finds carbon monoxide (CO) molecules in the ten million degree gas associated with the young supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A). The team is led by Dr. Jeonghee Rho, who holds a joint appointment at the SETI Institute, and at the SOFIA Science Center at NASA Ames Research Center (both located in Mountain View California). Theoretically it was neither predicted nor expected to find the carbon monoxide molecule associated with a highly energetic supernova remnant. Energetic electrons and heavy-element atoms produced by nuclear processes in supernovae should have destroyed these molecules. This finding could change our current understanding of the cycle of carbon and molecules in the interstellar gas and dust clouds.
Infrared spectra obtained by AKARI have detected a broad feature with a double-peaked profile. A dozen spectra reveal CO features similar to this across the angular extent of Cas A. The CO emission is specially detected not only from the bright ring of shocked ejecta but also from the central region where unshocked ejecta are located. The CO at the center of Cas A contains material which has been relatively unchanged since a few years after the original supernova explosion. The spectral model applied to these spectra indicates that the broad feature is being composed of a few ten thousand spectral lines produced by CO. Cas A is 330 years old and located at a distance of approximately 11 thousand light years in the direction of the well-known W-shaped constellation of Cassiopeia.
The Japanese are heading back into space on a second attempt to collect samples from a nearby asteroid.
The asteroid selected, 1999 JU3 is a perfect specimen, said Humberto Campins, a University of Central Florida professor and international expert on asteroids and comets.
“Based on our analysis, it should be rich in primitive materials, specifically organic molecules and hydrated minerals from the early days of our solar system,” Campins said. “If successful it could give us clues about the birth of water and life in our world.”